Qeej [raj qeej]
- Laurence Libin
Free-reed mouth organ of the Hmong people of China, Southeast Asia, and the diaspora. The windchest, nowadays preferably of African mahogany or walnut, is carved and gouged into two halves glued and bound together with decorative bands, and has a long tapered integral blowpipe that places the windchest at arms’ length. The blowpipe has rattan or metal ferrules along its length. Protruding through the windchest is a bound cluster of six curved or straight bamboo pipes, up to 2 metres long in some instruments, each with its bronze or brass reed enclosed within the windchest. Stopping the exposed fingerhole drilled and burned into each pipe above the windchest allows its reed to sound under pressure or suction. The shortest, widest pipe, controlled by the right thumb, often has two or three reeds at the same pitch for greater volume. This and the longest pipes usually sound drones; the other four play the melody. Each pipe is named and each note corresponds to a word in the Hmong language, hence its music resembles tonal speech and is used as such, and players are likened to storytellers; they usually dance while performing. The instrument plays both text-based and free compositions, and is believed to communicate with spirits. It is often heard, solo and in ensemble, at funerals, marriages, and ancestral and other rituals, as well as for entertainment....